Every year, on November 14, in commemoration of World Diabetes Day, it is necessary to join the rest of the world in raising awareness about the manageable ailment, which affects 19 million adults (aged 20 to 79) in Africa alone. This figure is estimated to increase to 47 million by 2045.
You have diabetes when your body does not make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin it produces well enough. Insulin is a hormone produced by the body to help your cells absorb glucose from your blood and either use it or store it for energy.
Typically, after snacking or consuming food, your digestive tract breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is then taken into your bloodstream through the lining of your small intestine. Once this glucose gets into your blood, insulin allows cells all over your body to absorb it and use it for energy. Furthermore, when there is too much sugar, insulin lets your body know of the need to store the excess sugar in the liver. The body then holds on to this stored glucose until your blood sugar level decreases, especially when you are fasting or in between meals.
Diabetes, if left untreated, means that your blood sugar is persistently on the rise, which can eventually cause arterial blockages that can thus result in a stroke or heart attack. Diabetes is also a major cause of blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation.
Types of diabetes
There are various forms of diabetes
Type 1 diabetes:
Even though this also develops in adults, it usually starts early on in life. It is caused by an auto-immune reaction (when the body attacks itself by mistake) that destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin thus resulting in the body’s inability to produce insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to control their blood glucose.
Type 2 diabetes:
This is the most common type of diabetes and is often linked with being overweight and obese. In Type 2 diabetes, it is either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells in the body do not recognise the insulin that is present. The end result is the same: high level of glucose in the blood. Type 2 diabetes can lead to multiple major medical problems.
Prediabetes: You are pre-diabetic if your body finds it difficult to use the hormone ‘Insulin’ that helps regulate the movement of sugar within your cells for energy; this basically means you become pre-diabetic when your cells do not adequately respond to insulin, the cells ignore the message sent by insulin.
This is any degree of increase in blood sugar level discovered for the first time during pregnancy.
Are you at risk?
There are various risk factors that predispose you to diabetes mellitus. Some are age, obesity, prediabetes, physical inactivity, prior history of gestational diabetes, family history of diabetes, et cetera.
Symptoms of diabetes
* Blurred vision
* Frequent urination (polyuria)
* Increased thirst and hunger (polydipsia and polyphagia)
* Unintended weight loss
* Slow healing sores, etc.
Can we prevent diabetes ?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), simple lifestyle measures can significantly reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. They are:
* Regular physical activity
* Maintaining a healthy diet
* Avoiding tobacco use
* Maintaining a normal body weight
There are no researches to show that Type 1 diabetes can be prevented. It can, however, be managed by following your doctor’s recommendations, getting regular check-ups and living a healthy lifestyle.
This occurs when someone with diabetes does not have enough sugar in their blood; hypoglycaemia, also known as low blood sugar, can happen quickly and needs to be treated immediately.
It is often caused by taking too much insulin or other diabetes medication, not eating enough, or getting extra physical activity without eating more or adjusting your medications, and drinking alcohol.
Symptoms differ from person to person, they could include:
* Nervousness or anxiety
* Sweating, chills, or clamminess
* Irritability or impatience
* Dizziness and difficulty concentrating
* Hunger or nausea
* Blurry or double vision
*Weakness or fatigue
* Loss of consciousness
It is also possible that you may not have symptoms, it is, therefore, important to regularly track your blood sugar levels.
There is no cure for diabetes but it can be managed with the aim to keep your blood sugar level normal, decrease and prevent the development of diabetes-related health problems.
These are done by encouraging the use of medication and also lifestyle modification.
* Dietary measures – eating a healthy diet
* Encourage regular exercise
* Avoid toxic habits – alcohol, smoking
* Avoid sedentary lifestyle (inactivity)
* Manage sores and injuries
* Foot care
* Always use your drugs (Insulin or oral medication)
* Do not self-medicate
* Learn to identify signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia
* Regular blood sugar checks at home
Also make periodic visits to your hospital and consult with a physician; signs that you may not have noticed can be picked up during a medical consultation.
•Otegbayo is health communications executive, NISA Premier, Abuja